Obviously, sex addiction isn’t something you’re born with. Rather, it’s a condition which develops over time. Most people can go about their lives, form relationships, have sex, even look at porn occasionally, and not necessarily become addicted.
Remember, when we say addicted, we mean that the compulsion to act out sexually has literally ruined a person’s life. Maybe they’ve lost friendships, relationships, jobs, or even large amounts of money due to an inability to stop themselves from feeding their addiction. It may present differently in different people too – for some people it’s porn sites, for others it’s strip clubs, for others it’s different partners every night, for others it’s soliciting sex workers, for others it’s affairs. The point is, however it presents itself, sex and porn addiction is a huge problem.
Let’s look at how it happens, and what to do about it.
It Starts Early
The biggest factor we see when treating someone with a sex addiction is some sort of wounding that happened at a young age. This could be anything from abuse or trauma to abandonment or neglect. Usually, porn will have been introduced to the child either shortly before or shortly after this traumatic experience takes place, and the child begins to use porn or sexuality as a coping mechanism.
This is dangerous, because certainly children are too young to understand what they are seeing in pornographic images. Many are exposed to them before they are ready to handle it, and they wind up handling it in the wrong way. Perhaps the child stumbles upon an older relative’s “stash,” or more likely nowadays, the child simply navigates onto a pornographic website.
The point is, they begin using the feelings they get from acting out sexually as a way to soothe themselves from the trauma they’re experiencing at home. This becomes an unending cycle because their addictive behavior leads them to feel ashamed. They withdraw from their family, from friends, and will go on to have great difficulty forming romantic relationships later. When they feel lonely, rejected, scared or even just stressed out, they are going to retreat to their addictive and compulsive behaviors. It’s a cycle, which just keeps spiraling downward and it can happen very quickly.
Most of the men we treat begin their addictive behavior between the ages of 10 and 14. And the longer they have been acting this way, the harder the work is to break that cycle. However, I want to reassure everyone that it can be done – but the sooner you can start, the better.
Things Ramp Up Quickly
You might be surprised by how innocently a sex or porn addiction can start out. It might be something as benign as pictures in an underwear catalog. For whatever reason, the young person latches onto these images as a form of soothing themselves. They feel that these images calm them down, although they can’t yet rationalize the fact that this effect is only temporary, and leads them to feeling worse afterwards.
Of course, an addict is not going to be satisfied with something as mundane as a bathing suit photo. Eventually it will move up to nude images, then video clips, then more extreme video clips, then darker or disturbing content, all to chase the “high” they used to feel when looking at the underwear catalog as a child.
Just like a drug addict will put themselves in dangerous situations seeking the substance they are addicted to; sex addicts do the same thing. Obviously, there are inherent dangers with unprotected sex, or sex with people you don’t know and trust, but addicts can even go beyond that. In most places, prostitution is illegal, so an addict could be putting themselves at risk of being arrested for soliciting sex workers.
Some addicts find that they are no longer satisfied with porn and must start extramarital affairs. This puts their marriage at risk, and perhaps even custody of their children.
None of these dangerous situations are things that the addict actually wants. What they want is to feel satisfied after experiencing true connection and intimacy with another person. The problem is that their wires are so helplessly crossed that they are incapable of feeling that connection and keep chasing down the wrong experience.
When Is It Time to Seek Help?
Any addict becomes very good at hiding their situation, and sometimes that can include hiding it from themselves. Denial can be very strong, so the addict usually has to run into some sort of pain point before they will reach out for help.
You’ve probably heard this referred to as a rock-bottom moment, but actually there are two types of “bottoms” and addicts can hit:
A “High Bottom” is when an addict comes to the realization that their behavior is going to cause them to lose everything. They are able to seek help and stop themselves before any lasting damage is done. This can sometimes happen because a partner has issued an ultimatum, or it can simply strike them in a moment of clarity.
A “Low Bottom” is when it hits the fan, as they say. This is when the addiction has actually caused someone to lose something important. It could be a job, a marriage, or anything else which has caused significant disruption in their life. They allow the addiction to go on so long that it took everything from them. They can’t get any lower than this.
Here’s a secret though – you don’t have to wait until you hit bottom before you ask for help. You can get help right now. It’s going to require you to be honest with yourself about your behavior. Is your sex or porn addiction preventing you from participating fully in your life? Are you ashamed of your actions? Do you feel that your addiction is keeping you isolated from other people around you, even though you would like to connect with them? Do you feel you are unable to resist acting out sexually?
If so, we can put you back in control of your life before your addiction has a chance to ruin anything. You can turn around right now. Today. Take that first step by picking up the phone and giving us a call. We’ll talk, will figure out a good plan for you, and will start working right away. This is your life were talking about here. It’s important.